IS GOING BASIC BEST?

A comparison of basic economy fare flights for various airlines

By Benjamin Szweda

AAA World Article

A Comparison of Basic Economy Fares
Basic economy fares have been introduced by all U.S. legacy carriers as a way to compete with the budget airlines that have quickly built up a loyalty base. Supporters claim more people can now afford tickets. Opponents, meanwhile, claim the new fare class was just a way to increase revenues pointing out examples where original economy tickets were rebranded basic economy and the regular economy ticket increased in price.

Regardless of your opinion, next time you purchase a flight, you will likely face a pop-up asking if you agree to the terms of the basic economy fare or if you want to pay more for regular economy class.

Comparing legacy carriers’ basic economy fares will aid your decision to agree or upgrade. You will find that unless your travel plans are fluid, basic economy is not a horrible option. Solo fliers that are also credit card holders are going to face an experience not dissimilar from before the advent of this new fare class.

American Airlines Basic Economy
American Airlines is tied with Delta Airlines for the most customer-friendly restrictions tied to their basic economy fares. They allow both a personal item and a carry-on bag for free. However, they prevent access to free seat assignments, automatically assigning seats at check-in and only offer seats for purchase within 48 hours of departure. American also prevents both free and paid upgrades; flight changes; refunds; and same-day standby.  Basic economy fliers board in the last group and because of this restriction, the likelihood of your carry-on being gate checked is high. The only way to get around this last restriction is to have elite status or be a credit card holder. Such members can board earlier as allowed by their status.

Delta Air Lines Basic Economy
Delta also allows both a personal item and a carry-on bag for free. However, they prevent access to free seat assignments, automatically assigning seats after check-in. Delta also prevents both free and paid upgrades; the purchase of Priority Boarding; flight changes; refunds; and same-day standby. Basic economy fliers also board in the last group. Again, the only way to get around this last restriction is to have elite status or be a credit card holder.

United Airlines Basic Economy
United’s rules for Basic Economy are the most restrictive, but elite status or the United credit card are easy ways to dull the pain. They are unique in only allowing a personal item to be carried onboard if the traveler is a MileagePlus Premier member or a credit card holder. These memberships will also allow you to board before other basic economy fliers do in the last group. Baggage aside, United Basic Economy is similar to its competitors. They prevent even elite members from upgrading or purchasing preferred seating, and they also assigns seats prior to boarding and disallows ticket changes in advance or same-day.